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Cynthia Nixon Will Smoke Weed Again If It's Legalized in New York

Cynthia Nixon has a more progressive stance on recreational marijuana than her primary opponent, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
August 7, 2018, 3:11pm
Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

If Cynthia Nixon wins her bid for New York governor, there's one campaign promise some of her supporters won't let her renege on: smoking weed.

In an interview with The Cut, Nixon, who's challenging entrenched incumbent Andrew Cuomo in September's primaries, said that though she doesn't smoke weed now, she will if its recreational use becomes legal in New York.

"I tried it twice when I was in college," Nixon said. "It wasn’t for me, but I promised a number of people that when we legalize it in New York, I will give it another shot."

Nixon has made legalization a prominent platform in her bid to unseat Cuomo, linking the criminalization of marijuana to other issues at the forefront of her campaign, like criminal justice reform.

"I believe it’s time for New York to follow the lead of eight other states and DC and legalize the recreational use of marijuana," Nixon said in an April video for her campaign "There are a lot of good reasons for legalizing marijuana, but for me, it comes down to this: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity."

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Cuomo has long opposed legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in New York, coming down firmly on one side of the debate as recently as last year. “It’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true,” Cuomo told Politico in February 2017. “There’s two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana."

But Cuomo struck a different tone last month, when he commented on a state Health Department report that found New York could greatly benefit from legalization. Cuomo didn't quite offer his full support to the idea, though he did seem to hint that he was coming around to it.

The situation on marijuana is changing,” Cuomo told reporters. “Now you have to answer specifics. Who sells it? Where do they sell it? What quantity can you sell? That to me, the devil’s in the details. And to come up with a full program, that’s what we have to answer.”

Cuomo's evolving stance on marijuana legalization might have been the result of simply hearing enough persuasive arguments on the issue, or seeing the hefty economic stimulus recreational marijuana could give New York spelled out in the Health Department's report.

His opponents, however, would attribute it to something else: the Cynthia effect.

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Since Nixon announced her candidacy in March, her supporters see Cuomo inching left on issues like voting rights, environmental justice, abortion protections, and, yes, marijuana, in fear that Nixon's progressive campaign poses a real threat.

“Here comes someone who sounds a lot like [Zephyr] Teachout, is emphasizing progressive values and issues, but the difference is, [Nixon] is better connected,” Syracuse University political science professor Grant Reeher told The Hill in April, referring to a former primary challenger of Cuomo's, who's now running for state attorney general.

“People know her," Reeher continued, "and he is obviously worried about it and worried he’ll lose a significant chunk of the left."